​Post-t​raumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by an extremely frightening event and causes intense fear, nervousness, anxiety, shock, anger, helplessness or horror. You may have experienced the event first hand or witnessed somebody else’s experience. Types of experiences that lead to PTSD include sexual or physical assault, mugging, unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. 

Other than victims of a traumatic event or injury, PTSD is also common amongst families of victims, war veterans, police force and emergency rescue personnel. When faced with a traumatic experience, it is natural to feel disturbed for some time. However, if the feelings continue for a long time (extending from weeks to months) and interfere with your ability to live a normal life, it may signal towards PTSD. ​​

Signs and symptoms of PTSD can be grouped into three main categories:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms

    • ​Reliving thoughts and memories of the associated trauma

    • Nightmares

    • Frightening thoughts​

  • Avoidance symptoms

    • ​Feelings of detachment from family and friends

    • Losing interest in everyday activities

    • Difficulty showing emotions

    • Depression

    • Guilt​

  • Hyper-arousal symptoms

    • ​Increased irritability and outbursts of anger

    • Trouble falling asleep or inability to sleep (known as insomnia)

    • Increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing and nausea.

Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months of the event but in some cases, they do not appear until many years later. The severity and duration varies from case to case. Some people recover within a few months, while others suffer much longer. Children can have extreme reactions to trauma, but their symptoms are usually different, including:​

  • Bedwetting (despite having been toilet trained before the trauma)​

  • Forgetting how to or being unable to talk

  • Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult

Older children and teens display more adult like symptoms. They may sometimes develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviours or have feelings of guilt and vengeance.​

If you or a loved one has been through a traumatic event and have been feeling confused or unsettled for many weeks or months after, seek help immediately. You can obtain additional information and expert medical advice from doctors working with the Mind and Brain Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor will diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder based on signs and symptoms and a thorough psychological evaluation. He/she will ask you to describe your symptoms as well as details of the event that led up to them. You may also have a physical exam to check for medical problems such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.​

Treatment options for PTSD include:

  • Psychotherapy: different types of therapy may be beneficial including:

    • ​Cognitive therapy: this will help you recognize negative behavioural patterns and help you to change the way you think. 

    • Exposure therapy: this will help you to cope with frightening and traumatizing feelings. 

    • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): this is a combination of exposure therapy and a series of guided eye movements that help you process and react to traumatic memories.

  • Medication: your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication to improve sleep and concentration, and relieve anxiety and stress. 

    With the right kind of treatment and care, you may experience relief from symptoms within a few weeks but sometimes it takes up to a few months or even longer, depending on the nature of the trauma and the effort you put into it. ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.